I’ve often heard actors describe how thrilled they were to have a part written specifically for them, and this film certainly highlights the positive effects of such bespoke writing. Dany Boon wrote this film with Benoît Poelvoorde in mind, and he repaid the gesture by delivering a perfect performance.
Inspired by Boon’s memories of growing up near the Franco-Belgian border, the film tells the story of a rabid Francophobe Walloon customs officer (Poelvoorde) being forced to work with a French customs officer after the abolition of passport control checkpoints. The fact that the French customs officer (Boon) is secretly dating the Belgian’s sister adds to the comic potential.
I loved this film, a good-natured laugh at something that I have always found utterly risible. Coming from a country whose borders are defined by thousands of kilometres of water in every direction, the absurdity of nationalism has always seemed to be worthy of nothing but derision, and it gets what it deserves in this film. As with other artficially divided entities, like India and Pakistan, Serbia and Croatia or San Marino and Italy, the two main players even speak the same language ( excepting huitante for quatre-vingt and other minor dialectal variations) further stressing how pointless and ridiculous the divisions are. Highlighting the seemingly inbuilt human need to laud “us” and demonise “them” through comedy made for great viewing.
This film is emphatically not a political treatise on pan-Europeanism or supranationalism. It is a lightly romantic comedy that laughs at human foibles in a good-natured way, and reminds us that we really are all the same. Watching the special features showed that everybody involved clearly had a whole lot of fun making it, and that enjoyment is infectious. One of my favourite comedies from my fiftyfiftyme challenge this year.